Romans 14 raises important questions for those who believe that the Sabbath and the prohibitions against eating unclean foods are ongoing requirements for Christians. Paul reminds the Roman Christians that some people esteem one day above another and others esteem every day alike, and that each person is to be convinced in their own mind (Romans 14:5, 6). Paul is not writing about the Sabbath. He has consistently affirmed the vital role of the moral law in the book of Romans (Romans 2:25–29; 7:12, 16, 23). Paul believed that the requirements of the law would be fulfilled in the lives of believers (Romans 8:4; 13:8–10). It was also his practice to worship on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2).

People devoted other days to God. These days would be used as feast days or fast days (Romans 14:6). If someone chooses to have a feast day to the Lord or chooses to have a fast day for the Lord, they should be free to do so. There should also be no obligation to join with them and no fear of judgment or condemnation for enjoying a feast or fast day. Christmas could be a modern example of a feast day. It is not required or condemned by Scripture. Sometimes people are upset when churches have a Christmas service. We should be careful not to quarrel over these types of issues. If someone chooses to dedicate this day to the Lord, they should feel free. If someone chooses not to, they too should feel free.

The issue of unclean food comes up when Paul says that he is convinced no food is unclean of itself. It is only unclean if we consider it to be unclean (Romans 14:14). The word translated unclean is koinos and means common. This is also how the word is translated in Acts 10. There, Peter was hungry and had a vision of a sheet with all kinds of animals, some clean and some creepy crawlies (Acts 10:12). God asked Peter to kill and eat. Peter protested by saying he had never eaten anything common (koinos) or unclean (akathartos) (Acts 10:14). Unclean (akathartos) foods are defined in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11). Common (koinos) foods are defined by Jewish tradition. The Jews believed that if clean cows were kept in the same pen as unclean pigs, then the clean cows would become common (koinos). Jews not only avoided unclean foods they also avoided common (koinos) foods. The lesson of Acts 10 is clear. Clean Jews couldn’t become common by spending time with unclean Gentiles (Acts 10:28).

When Paul says he is convinced that no food is unclean (koinos) unless we consider it unclean, he doesn’t use the Greek word akatharots that means unclean. He uses the word koinos, which means common and refers to Jewish cultural traditions about food. His message is clear. We are not bound by Jewish cultural food requirements. However, Paul should not be understood to be teaching that God’s laws about unclean foods no longer apply.